ORLANDO, Fla. – The UCF men's soccer team dropped a heartbreaker to rival South Florida by a score of 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday night, snapping the Knights' three-match winning streak. The Black and Gold found themselves down 3-1 with 20 minutes to play but found two goals in the 74th and 85th minutes to force overtime, but couldn't complete the comeback in the extra frame.
"We started the game creating some good chances early, but we didn't take those chances," said head coach Scott Calabrese. "We just weren't sharp enough in front of goal in those first 20 or 30 minutes, so we left a bit of an opening. We just didn't seem to have enough energy as we normally do, but I think that changed as the game went on. At the end of that first half, we got away from what we do well. Coming out of half, I think we changed that and got back to how we play. Obviously its an incredible comeback to be down 3-1 and score the next two. I thought during that period, we were really good and created a number of good chances and took them. Once you get into overtime, anything can happen; I still feel like we were doing a lot of the right things. In the end, if you concede four goals in a game, you're probably not winning that game."
The match began heavily favoring the Knights, tallying five shot attempts before South Florida could register one. The momentum eventually turned into a goal as Yanis Leerman lobbed a ball over the entire Bulls team to a charging Ariel Hadar, who stayed onside and collected the ball. He took a touch and finished the chance, scoring his fourth goal of the season with three of them coming against the Bulls.
South Florida evened the match at 1-1 with a goal by Andres Freire in the 31st minute as they converted off a free kick. The Bulls added another in the 40th minute as Jeffrey Copper put South Florida in front heading into the break.
Despite the Bull lead on the scoreboard at half, the Knights had the slight 6-5 edge in shot attempts and the lone corner of the match.
South Florida found a third straight goal in the 72nd minute as Oscar Resano lined up from beyond the 18-yard box and tucked it home for a 3-1 lead.
The Knights didn't go quietly though as they responded with a goal of their own less than two minutes later. Mauricio Villalobos Vega was in the right place at the right time as he knocked the ball down with his back, collected it and eventually scored inside the penalty area.
UCF continued to dominate possession the rest of the way and drew even with an incredible goal from Gianluca Arcangeli. The play was set up by Villalobos, who was taken down but was able to kick the ball along up the sideline for Anderson Rosa, who played a beautiful ball in for Arcangeli who flicked a header in for the equalizer in the 85th minute.
The fourth largest crowd on record at the UCF Soccer Complex of 948 were set to watch the War On I-4 head into overtime, the first of the season for the Black and Gold. The Knights had outshot South Florida 13-5 in the final 45 minutes and had the 4-2 edge in corners.
After a few chances both ways, the Bulls found the golden goal in the 95th minute on a Shion Soga shot from the top of the 18-yard box.
With the rest of the conference's results, the Knights now sit one point out of first place in the table. Tulsa and SMU played to a 0-0 draw, earning a point for each side. Memphis topped Temple 2-1, eliminating the Owls from postseason contention. Memphis currently holds the fourth spot in the table leading South Florida by three points who remains alive in fifth.
UCF entered the match 7-0-0 when scoring three or more goals and had done so in six of its last eight matches. The Black and Gold drop to 0-3-0 when surrendering three or more goals in a match. The four goals allowed is the most since the season opening 4-0 loss to FIU.
In the last six War On I-4 meetings, the road team has come away with the victory. The Knights earned back-to-back road victories in 2018 and 2019 before losing the first matchup of the 2020-21 season in Orlando. UCF responded with a 1-0 double overtime victory later that season in Tampa and earned a victory in the two team's first meeting of this season by a count of 3-2 on the road. South Florida's win tonight means the Knights have come away with a victory in four of the last six meetings. The last nine contests between the Black and Gold and the Bulls have been decided by a goal, with four of those results being decided in overtime.
The Black and Gold will wrap up their regular season home schedule on Sunday as they host SMU at 6 p.m. UCF will celebrate Senior Knight prior to the match.
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